While driving to Coorg, many tourists stop at Kushal Nagar to see the beautiful Golden Temple, eat momos, and purchase souvenirs. Few venture into the Tibetan settlements. On a trip, many summers ago, I decided to halt in Kushalnagar. A stroll brought me to a small hotel, newly opened, with clean, sparse rooms.
I have a vivid memory of enjoying delicious momos and black lemon ginger tea with mellifluous Tibetan music playing in the background. A white house cat strolled the hallways, too snooty to make friends with a backpacker!
I stayed at the hotel for a couple of days, absorbing the deep tranquility of the people. Long walks through corn fields, showed a different pace of life. One where monks would plonk down beside the roads, rest awhile, and leisurely resume their walk.
The ever-present flags loomed over tiled houses sheds.
pre-independence times, it was known as Fraserpet after Colonel Fraser, the Political Agent in Coorg around 1834. These settlements are easily accessible by bus from Bangalore.
The Golden Temple (Namdroling monastery) is the nucleus to the scattered settlements. There are several newer monasteries nearby including Sera Jey. Brightly colored flags, rows of prayer wheels, ornate buildings adorned with frescoes greet me as I step into the Golden Temple compound. Over-the-top colors contrast with the silent movement of the monks and somehow it all balances perfectly. Stepping into the wooden interiors, the most striking aspect is the three statues of Budhha. It’s easy to sit here and experience the stillness.
However, time did flow by, and soon I was heading to Madikeri, for my bus back to Bangalore. Muddy from the frequent showers and bursting with tourists, Madikeri was a typical junction town.
The day went by doing typical touristy stuff – exploring the town to catch the sightseeing points, walking the winding paths and sketching. The must-see spot is the Raja’s Tomb, where King Dodda Vira Raja, his wife and son Lingarajendra (not too sure) have been laid to rest. The tombs were built in the Islamic style. A group of young lads played cricket; for them the historical structure was as routine as a bus stop.
I hummed ‘Hill Station’ songs, got drenched, and bought coffee, cardamom, chocolate-flavoured tea, lemon oil, and gooseberry wine.
Read Bylakuppe Diaries: Discovering a Piece of Tibet in South India for a detailed account of the Tibetan culture and way of life in these settlements.